Category Archives: Cloud

Azure Security Center: introduction to the solution

Azure Security Center is a cloud solution that helps prevent, detect and respond to security threats that affect the resources and workloads on hybrid environments. This article lists the main characteristics and features, to address the use cases and to understand the potential of the instrument.

Key features and characteristics of Azure Security Center

  • It manages security policies centrally. It ensures compliance with the safety requirements to be imposed on business and regulatory. Everything is handled centrally through security policies that can be applied to different workloads.

Figure 1 – Policy & Compliance Overview

Figure 2 – Policy management

  • It makes Security Assessment. It monitors the situation continuously in terms of security of machines, networks, storage and applications, in order to identify potential security problems.
  • It provides recommendations that you can implement. Are given indications that are recommended to implement to fix the security vulnerabilities that affect your environment, before they can be exploited in potential cyber attacks.

Figure 3 – Recommendations list

  • It assigns priorities to warnings and possible security incidents. Through this prioritization you can focus first on the security threats that may impact more on the infrastructure.

Figure 4 – Assigning severity for each report

Figure 5 – Assigning severity for each potential security incident detected

  • It allows to configure your cloud environment in order to protect it effectively. It is made available a simple method, quickly and securely to allowjust-in-time access to system management ports and applications running on the VM, by applying adaptive controls.

Figure 6 – Enabling Just-in-time VM access

  • It provides a fully integrated security solution. Allows you to collect, investigate and analyze security data from different sources, including the ability to integrate with third-party solution.

Figure 7 – Integration with other security solutions

 

The Cost of the Solution

Security Center is offered in two different tiers:

  • Free tier. In this tier Azure Security Center is completely free and provides visibility into security of resources residing only in Azure. Among the features offered there are: basic security policy, security requirements and integration with third-party security products and services.
  • Standard tier. Compared to tier free adds enhanced threat detection (including threat intelligence), behavioral analysis, anomaly detection and security incidents and reports of conferral of threats. The tier standard extends the visibility on the security of the resources that reside on-premises, and hybrid workloads. Through machine learning techniques and having the ability to create whitelist it allows to block malware and unwanted applications.

Figure 8 – Comparison of features between the available pricing tiers

For the Standard tier, you can try it for free for 60 days after that, if you want to continue using the solution, you have a monthly fee for single node. For more information on costs of the solution you can access to the official page of costs.

Figure 9 – Standard tier upgrade screen

To take advantage of all the Security Center features is necessary to apply the Standard Tier to the subscribtion or to the resource group that contains the virtual machines. Configuring the tier Standard does not automatically enable all features, but some of these require specific configurations, for example VM just in time, adaptive control of applications and network detection for resources in Azure.

 

Basic principles of operation

The collection of security data from systems, regardless of their location, is via the Microsoft Monitoring Agent, that it provides to its sending to a Log Analytics workspace. Security Center requires a workspace on which you enabled the following solution according to tier chosen:

  • Free tier: the Security Center enables the solution SecurityCenterFree.
  • Standard tier: the Security Center enables the solution Security. If in the workspace is already installed the solution Security & Auditit is used and nothing else is installed.

To save the data collected from the Security Center you can use a Log Analytics workspace created by default or select a specific one associated with the relative Azure subscription.

Figure 10 – Configuration of the workspace of Log Analytics where you collect the data

Conclusions

Azure Security Center is an appropriate, mature and structured solution to meet the security requirements for cloud, on-premises, or hybrid environments. Thanks to several features covered provides the knowledge that Microsoft has matured in the management of its services, combining it with powerful new technologies, as machine learning and big data, to treat and manage consciously and effectively the security.

OMS and System Center: What's New in August 2018

In August have been announced, by Microsoft, a considerable number of news about Operations Management Suite (OMS) and System Center. Our community releases this monthly summary that gives you a comprehensive overview of the main news of the month, in order to stay up to date on these arguments and have the necessary references to conduct any insights.

Operations Management Suite (OMS)

Azure Log Analytics

As already announced in the article The management of Log Analytics from the Azure portal Microsoft has chosen to abandon the OMS portal, in favour of the Azure Portal. The date announced for the final withdrawal of the OMS portal is the 15 January 2019. As a result of this choice also creation of new workspace of Azure Log Analytics can be performed only from the Azure Portal. Trying to create a new workspace from the old OMS portal you will be redirected to the Azure portal to complete the task. Have not made any changes to REST API and PowerShell to create workspaces.

Even the Advanced Analytics Portal is incorporated into the Azure Portal. At the moment you can access this portal by logging on to Logs (preview) available in the workspace of Log Analytics.

Figure 1 - Advanced Analytics available in the Logs (preview) from the Azure Portal

 

Azure Automation

Managing updates through Azure Automation Update Management sees the addition of a new option for the deployment of the updates. When creating or editing an update deployment is now an option the Reboot, that allows you to control whether and when reboot systems. For more information please visit the official technical documentation.

Figure 2 – Reboot option available in the update deployment

In the functionality of Change Tracking the following changes have been made:

  • To track changes and make the inventory of the files in the Windows environment now you can use: recursion, wildcards, and environment variables. In Linux there is already the support for recursion and wildcards.
  • As for the changes that are processed in files, both Windows and Linux, introduced the ability to display the content of the changes.
  • Introduced the possibility to reduce the frequency with which Windows services are collected (frequency is expressed in seconds and runs from a minimum of 10 seconds to a maximum of 30 minutes).

Agent

This month the new version ofOMS agent for Linux systems fixes some bugs and introduces an updated version for several core components, that increase the stability, the safety and improve the installation process. Among the various news is introduced the support for Ubuntu 18.04. To obtain the updated version of the OMS agent you can access to the official GitHub page OMS Agent for Linux Patch v 1.6.0-163. In the case the OMS agent for Linux systems has been installed using the Azure Extension and if its automatic update is active, this update will be installed independently.

Figure 3 – Bug fixes and what's new for the OMS agent for Linux

 

Azure Site Recovery

For Azure Site Recovery was released theUpdate Rollup 27 introducing new versions for the following components:

  • Microsoft Azure Site Recovery Unified Setup/Mobility agent (version 9.18.4946.1): used for replication scenarios from VMware to Azure.
  • Microsoft Azure Site Recovery Provider (version 5.1.3550.0): used for replication scenarios from Hyper-V to Azure or to a secondary site.
  • Microsoft Azure Recovery Services agent (version 2.0.9125.0): used for replication scenarios from Hyper-V to Azure.

The installation of this update rollup is recommended in deployments where there are components and their respective versions below reported:

  • Unified Setup/Mobility agent version 9.14.0000.0 or later.
  • Site Recovery Provider (with System Center VMM): version 3.3. x. x or later.
  • Site Recovery Provider (for replication without VMM): version 5.1.3100.0 or later.
  • Site Recovery Hyper-V Provider: version 4.6. x. x or later.

For more information on the issues resolved, on improvements from this Update Rollup and to get the procedure for its installation is possible to consult the specific KB 4055712.

 

In Azure Site Recovery was introduced support for enabling disaster recovery scenarios Cross-subscription, for IaaS virtual machines, as long as belonging to the same Azure Active Directory tenant. This feature is very useful because often you have environments that use different Azure subscriptions, created primarily to have greater control of costs. Thanks to this new support you can more easily reach business continuity requirements creating disaster recovery plans without altering the topology of the Azure subscriptions in your environment.

Figure 4 - VM replica configuration to a different subscription target

 

Azure Site Recovery now can integrate with Veritas Backup Exec Instant Cloud Recovery (ICR) with the release of Backup Exec 20.2. Using ICR, Backup Exec users are able to configure replication of VMs on-premises to Azure and easily operate the DR plan if necessary, reducing the Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and the Recovery Time Objective (RTO). Instant Cloud Recovery requires a subscription Azure and supports Hyper-V and VMware virtual machines. For more details and references you can see thespecific announcement.

Azure Backup

In this interesting article there is the procedure to monitor all workloads protected by Azure Backup using Log Analytics.

System Center

System Center Configuration Manager

Released the version 1806 for the Current Branch (CB) of System Center Configuration Manager that introduces new features and major improvements in the product.

Among the main innovations of this update there is a new feature called CMPivot. It is a new utility available in the Configuration Manager console that can provide information in real time about connected devices in your environment. On this information you can apply filters and groupings, then perform certain actions.

Figure 5 – Features and benefits of CMPivot functionality

For a complete list of new features introduced in this version of Configuration Manager, you can consult theofficial announcement.

 

Released the version 1808 for the branch Technical Preview of System Center Configuration Manager. This update introduces the ability to perform a gradual release of software updates automatically. The button that allows you to configure this operation is shown in figure below and can be found in the console nodes All Software Updates, All Windows 10 Updates, and Office 365 Updates.

Figure 6 – Phased Deployment creation button

For more information about configuring Phased Deployments in Configuration Manager, you can refer to the Microsoft technical documentation .

I remind you that the releases in the Technical Preview Branch allows you to evaluate in preview new SCCM functionality and is recommended to apply these updates only in test environments.

 

System Center Operations Manager

Released the updated version of Microsoft System Center 2016 Management Pack for Microsoft Azure (version 1.5.20.18).

There are also the following news:

 

Evaluation of OMS and System Center

Please remember that in order to test and evaluate for free Operations Management Suite (OMS) you can access this page and select the mode that is most appropriate for your needs.

To try out the various components of System Center you must access theEvaluation Center and after the registration you can start the trial period.

Azure Networking: introduction to the Hub-Spoke model

A network topology increasingly adopted by Microsoft Azure customers is the network topology defined Hub-Spoke. This article lists the main features of this network architecture, examines the most common use cases, and shows the main advantages that can are obtained thanks to this architecture.

The Hub-Spoke topology

In a Hub-Spoke network architecture, theHub is a virtual network on Azure that serves as the point of connectivity to the on-premises network. This connectivity can be done through VPN Site to site or through ExpressRoute. The Spoke are virtual networks running the peering with the Hub and can be used to isolate workloads.

The architecture basic scheme:

Figure 1 – Hub-Spoke basic network architecture

This architecture is also designed to position in the Hub network a network virtual appliance (NVA) to control the flow of network traffic in a centralized way.

Figure 2 - Possible architecture of Hub vNet in the presence of NVA

In this regard it should be noted that Microsoft recently announced the availability of the’Azure Firewall, a new managed service and fully integrated into the Microsoft public cloud, that allows you to secure the resources present on the Virtual Networks of Azure. At the moment the service is in preview, but soon it will be possible to assess the adoption of Azure Firewall to control centrally, through policy enforcement, network communication streams, all cross subscriptions and cross virtual networks. This service, in the presence of Hub-Spoke network architectures , lends itself to be placed in the Hub network, in order to obtain complete control of network traffic.

Figure 3 - Positioning Azure Firewall in the Hub Network

For additional details on Azure Firewall you can see Introduction to Azure Firewall.

When you can use the Hub-Spoke topology

The network architecture Hub-Spoke is typically used in scenarios where these characteristics are required in terms of connectivity:

  • In the presence of workloads deployed in different environments (development, testing and production) which require access to the shared services such as DNS, IDS, Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS). Shared services will be placed in the Hub virtual network, while the various environments (development, testing and production) will be deployed in Spoke networks to maintain a high level of insolation.
  • When certain workloads must not communicate with all other workloads, but only with shared services.
  • In the presence of reality that require a high level of control over aspects related to network security and needing to make a segregation of the network traffic.

Figure 4 – Hub-Spoke architecture design with its components

The advantages of the Hub-Spoke topology

The advantages of this Azure network topology can be summarized as:

  • Cost savings, because shared services can be centralized in one place and used by multiple workloads, such as the DNS server and any virtual appliances. It also reduces the VPN Gateways to provide connectivity to the on-premises environment, with a cost savings for Azure.
  • Granular separation of tasks between IT (SecOps, InfraOps) and workloads (Devops).
  • Greater flexibility in terms of management and security for the Azure environment.

Useful references for further reading

The following are the references to the Microsoft technical documentation useful to direct further investigation on this topic:

Conclusions

One of the first aspects to consider when you implement solutions in the cloud is the network architecture to be adopted. Establish from the beginning the most appropriate network topology allows you to have a winning strategy and avoid to be in the position of having to migrate workloads, to adopt different network architectures, with all the complications that ensue.

Each implementation requires a careful analysis in order to take into account all aspects and to make appropriate assessments. It is therefore not possible to assert that the Hub-Spoke network architecture is suitable for all scenarios, but certainly it introduces several benefits that make it effective for obtaining certain characteristics and have a high level of flexibility.

OMS and System Center: What's New in July 2018

Microsoft announces constantly news about Operations Management Suite (OMS) and System Center. As usual our community releases this monthly summary that provides a general overview of the main new features of the month, in order to stay up to date on these topics and have the necessary references to conduct further exploration.

Operations Management Suite (OMS)

Azure Log Analytics

The possible integration of Azure Data Factory (ADF) with Azure Monitor lets you send usage metrics to Operations Management Suite (OMS). The new solution Azure Data Factory Analytics, available in the Azure marketplace, can provide an overview of the State of health of the Data Factory, allowing you to go into detail of the information collected. This can be very useful for troubleshooting. It is also possible to collect metrics from different data factories to the same workspace of OMS Log Analytics. For configuration details required to use this solution, you can see the official documentation.

Figure 1 – Overview of the new Azure Data Factory Analytics solution

In Log Analytics, query execution introduces the ability to easily select the workspace on which to execute the queries.:

Figure 2 - Selection of the workspace on which to perform the Log Analytics query

The same possibility is also introduced in Azure Application Insights Analytics. This feature is useful because in each query tab you can select the specific workspace, avoiding having to open Log Analytics in different browser tabs.

In case they are collected custom logs in Azure Log Analytics, a separate category was created called "Custom Logs", where they are grouped.

Figure 3 – Grouping of custom logs in the specific category

For workspace of Log Analytics present in the region of West Europe, East US, and West Central was announced the availability in public preview of Metric Alerts for logs. The Metric alerts for logs allow you to use data from Log Analytics as metrics of Azure Monitor. The types of supported logs has been extended and the complete list is available at this link. For more information please visit the official documentation.

Azure Backup

In Azure Pricing Calculator, the official Microsoft tool for estimating the cost of Azure services, has been made possible to obtain a more accurate estimate of the costs of Azure Backup, allowing you to specify different retention range for the Recovery Points.

Figure 4 – New parameters to make a more accurate estimate of costs of Azure Backup

 

Azure Site Recovery

For Azure Site Recovery was released theUpdate Rollup 26 introducing new versions for the following components:

  • Microsoft Azure Site Recovery Unified Setup/Mobility agent (version 9.17.4897.1): used for replication scenarios from VMware to Azure.
  • Microsoft Azure Site Recovery Provider (version 5.1.3400.0): used for replication scenarios from Hyper-V to Azure or to a secondary site.
  • Microsoft Azure Recovery Services agent (version 2.0.9122.0): used for replication scenarios from Hyper-V to Azure.

The installation of this update rollup is recommended in deployments where there are components and their respective versions below reported:

  • Unified Setup/Mobility agent version 9.13.000.1 or later.
  • Site Recovery Provider version 5.1.3000 or later.
  • Hyper-V Recovery Manager 3.4.486 or later.
  • Site Recovery Hyper-V Provider 4.6.660 or later.

For more information on the issues resolved, on improvements from this Update Rollup and to get the procedure for its installation is possible to consult the specific KB 4344054.

Azure Automation

Regarding Azure Automation has been introduced the possibility to configure the Hybrid Runbook Workers so that they can execute only runbooks digitally signed (the execution of unsigned runbooks not fail). The procedure to be followed is reported in this section of the Microsoft's article.

System Center

Following the first announcement of the Semi-Annual Channel release of System Center, took place in February with the version 1801, this month has been released the new update release, System Center 1807.

The update release 1807 introduces new features for Virtual Machine Manager and Operations Manager, while for Data Protection Manager, Orchestrator and Service Manager contains fixes for known issues (including bug fixes present in the UR5 for System Center 2016, released in April).

What's new in Virtual Machine Manager 1807
  • Supports selection of CSV for placing a new VHD
  • Display of LLDP information for networking devices
  • Convert SET switch to logical switch
  • VMware host management: VMM 1807 supports VMware ESXi v6.5 servers in VMM fabric
  • Support for S2D cluster update
  • Support for SQL 2017
What's new in Operations Manager 1807
  • Configure APM component during agent install or repair
  • Linux log rotation
  • HTML5 Web console enhancements
  • Support for SQL Server 2017
  • Operations Manager and Service Manager console coexistence

For further details please visit the Microsoft official documentation:

System Center 1807 can be download from System Center Evaluation Center.

For all System Center products (DPM, SCORCH, SM, SCOM and VMM) you can now Update existing deployments going from SQL server 2016 to SQL server 2017.

Please remember that the release belonging to the Semi-Annual Channel have support for 18 months.

System Center Configuration Manager

Released the version 1807 for the branch Technical Preview of System Center Configuration Manager. The main novelty in this release is l & #8217; introduction of the new Community hub, through which you can share scripts, reports, configuration items and more, about Configuration Manager. Through the community hub, accessible from the SCCM console, you can introduce into your environment solutions provided by the community.

Among the new features in this release are also:

  • Improvements to third-party software updates
  • Co-managed device activity sync from Intune
  • Approve application requests via email
  • Repair applications
  • Admin defined offline operating system image servicing drive
  • Improvements to run scripts

Please note that the releases in the Technical Preview Branch help you evaluate the new features of SCCM and it is recommended to apply these updates only in test environments.

System Center Operations Manager

In order to configure the connection between Operations Management Suite (OMS) and System Center Operations Manager you must import the following new management packs, version-specific:

This change to the MPs was made necessary to allow proper communication with new APIs of OMS Log Analytics, introduced after moving towards the Azure Portal of Log Analytics.

Figure 5 - SCOM Wizard for the OMS onboarding

It is reported the new wave of System Center Operations Manager management packs released for SQL Server, now lined up to version 7.0.7.0:

In July were also released the following Management Packs for the Open Source software, version 7.7.1129.0, which include the following news:

Apache HTTP Server

  • Supports Apache HTTP Server version 2.2 and 2.4
  • Provides monitoring of busy and idle workers
  • Provides monitoring of resource usage – memory and CPU
  • Provides statistics for virtual hosts such as “Requests per Minute” and “Errors per Minute”
  • Provides alerting for SSL Certificate expiration

MySQL Server

  • Supports MySQL Server version 5.0, 5.1, 5.5, 5.6, and 5.7
  • Supports MariaDB Server version 5.5, and 10.0
  • Provides monitoring of databases
  • Provides monitoring of disk space usage for server and databases
  • Provides statistics for Key Cache, Query Cache, and Table Cache
  • Provides alerting for slow queries, failed connections, and full table scans

The following new MPs have also been released by Microsoft:

  • MP for Active Directory Federation Services version 0.2.0
  • MP for Active Directory Federation Services 2012 R2 version 1.10172.1
  • MP for Microsoft Azure version 5.20.18

Please also note the new community version (1807) of the Azure Management Pack, issued by Daniele Grandini.

Evaluation of OMS and System Center

Please remember that in order to test and evaluate for free Operations Management Suite (OMS) you can access this page and select the mode that is most appropriate for your needs.

To try out the various components of System Center, you can access theEvaluation Center and after the registration you can start the trial period.

Introduction to Azure Firewall

Microsoft recently announced the availability of a long-awaited service required by the users of systems in the Azure environment , it is the’Azure Firewall. The Azure Firewall is a new managed service and fully integrated into the Microsoft public cloud, that allows you to secure the resources present on the Virtual Networks of Azure. This article will look at the main features of this new service, currently in preview, and it will indicate the procedure to be followed for its activation and configuration.

Figure 1 – Positioning of Azure Firewall in network architecture

The Azure Firewall is a type of firewall stateful, which makes it possible to centrally control, through policy enforcement, network communication streams, all cross subscriptions and cross virtual networks. This service, in the presence of type of network architectures hub-and-spoke, lends itself to be placed in the Hub network, in order to obtain a complete control of the traffic.

The Azure Firewall features, currently available in this phase of public preview, are the following:

  • High availability (HA) Built-in: high availability is integrated into the service and are not required specific configurations or add-ons to make it effective. This is definitely an element that distinguishes it compared to third-party solutions that, for the configuration of Network Virtual Appliance (NVA) in HA, typically require the configuration of additional load balancers.
  • Unrestricted cloud scalability: Azure Firewall allows you to scale easily to adapt to any change of network streams.
  • FQDN filtering: you have the option to restrict outbound HTTP/S traffic towards a specific list of fully qualified domain names (FQDN), with the ability to use wild card characters in the creation of rules.
  • Network traffic filtering rules: You can create rules to allow or of deny to filter the network traffic based on the following elements: source IP address, destination IP address, ports and protocols.
  • Outbound SNAT support: to the Azure Firewall is assigned a public static IP address, which will be used by outbound traffic (Source Network Address Translation), generated by the resources of the Azure virtual network, allowing easy identification from remote Internet destinations.
  • Azure Monitor logging: all events of Azure Firewall can be integrated into Azure Monitor. In the settings of the diagnostic logs you are allowed to enable archiving of logs in a storage account, stream to an Event Hub, or set the sending to a workspace of OMS Log Analytics.

Azure Firewall is currently in a managed public preview, which means that to implement it is necessary to explicitly perform the enable via the PowerShell command Register-AzureRmProviderFeature.

Figure 02 – PowerShell commands for enabling the public preview of Azure Firewall

Feature registration can take up to 30 minutes and you can monitor the status of registration with the following PowerShell commands:

Figure 03 – PowerShell commands to verify the status of enabling Azure Firewall

After registration, you must run the following PowerShell command:

Figure 04 – Registration command of Network Provider

To deploy the Azure Firewall on a specific Virtual Network requires the presence of a subnet called AzureFirewallSubnet, that must be configured with a sunbnet mask at least /25.

Figure 05 – Creation of the subnet AzureFirewallSubnet

To deploy Azure Firewall from the Azure portal, you must select Create a resource, Networking and later See all:

Figure 06 - Search Azure Firewall in Azure resources

Filtering for Firewall will also appear the new resource Azure Firewall:

Figure 07 – Microsoft Firewall resource selection

By starting the creation process you will see the following screen that prompts you to enter the necessary parameters for the deployment:

Figure 08 – Parameters required for the deployment of the Firewall

Figure 09 – Review of selected parameters and confirmation of creation

In order to bring outbound traffic of a given subnet to the firewall you must create a route table that contains a route with the following characteristics:

Figure 10 - Creation of the Rule of traffic forwarding to the Firewall Service

Although Azure Firewall is a managed service, you must specify Virtual appliance as next hop. The address of the next hop will be the private IP of Azure Firewall.

The route table must be associated with the virtual network that you want to control with Azure Firewall.

Figure 11 - Association of the route table to the subnet

At this point, for systems on the subnet that forwards the traffic to the Firewall, is not allowed outgoing traffic, as long as it is not explicitly enabled:

Figure 12 – Try to access blocked website from Azure Firewall

Azure Firewall provides the following types of rules to control outbound traffic.

Figure 13 – The available rule Types

  • Application rules: to configure access to specific fully qualified domain names (FQDNs) from a given subnet.

Figure 14 - Creating Application rule to allow access to a specific website

  • Network rules: enable the configuration of rules that contain the source address, the protocol, the address and port of destination.

Figure 15 – Creating Network rule to allow traffic on port 53 (DNS) towards a specific DNS Server

Conclusions

The availability of a fully integrated firewall in the Azure fabric is certainly an important advantage that helps to enrich the capabilities provided natively by Azure. At the time are configurable basic operations, but the feature set is definitely destined to get rich quickly. Please note that this service is currently in preview, and no service level agreement is guaranteed and is not recommended to use it in production environments.

Azure Application Gateway: monitoring with Log Analytics

Azure Application Gateway is an application load balancer (OSI layer 7) for web traffic, available in Azure environment, that manages HTTP and HTTPS traffic of the applications. This article is discussed how to monitor of Azure Application Gateway using Log Analytics provides.

Figure 1 - Azure Application Gateway basic schema

Using the Azure Application Gateway you can take advantage of the following features:

  • URL-based routing
  • Redirection
  • Multiple-site hosting
  • Session affinity
  • Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) termination
  • Web application firewall (WAF)
  • Native support for WebSocket and HTTP/2 protocols

For more details on Azure Application Gateway can be found in the Microsoft's official documentation.

Configuring Diagnostics logs for the Application Gateway

The Azure Application Gateway can send diagnostic logs to a workspace of Log Analytics . This feature is very useful for checking the performance, to detect any errors and is essential for troubleshooting steps, in particular in the presence of the WAF module. To enable the diagnostic from the Azure portal you can select the Application Gateway resource and go to the "Diagnostics logs":

Figure 2 – Starting configuration of Diagnostics logs

Figure 3 – Configuring Diagnostics logs

After choosing your Log Analytics workspace where to send diagnostics data, in the Log section, you can select which type of log collecting among the following:

  • Access log (ApplicationGatewayAccessLog)
  • Performance log (ApplicationGatewayPerformanceLog)
  • Firewall log (ApplicationGatewayFirewallLog): these logs are generated only if the Web Application Firewall is configured on the Application Gateway.

In addition to these logs are also collected by default Activity Log generated by Azure. These logs are maintained for 90 days in the store of the Azure event logs. For more details you can refer this specific document.

Azure Application Gateway analytics solution of Log Analytics

Microsoft offers the solution Azure Application Gateway analytics that can be added to the workspace of Log Analytics by following these simple steps:

Figure 4 - Launching the procedure of adding the solution to the OMS workspace

Figure 5 – Selection of the Azure Application Gateway analytics solution

Figure 6 - Addition of the solution in the selected workspace

After enabling the sending of diagnostics logs into the workspace of Log Analytics and adding the solution to the same, by selecting the tile Azure Application Gateway analytics in the Overview page, you can see an overview of the collected log data from the Application Gateway:

Figure 7 – Screen overview of the Azure Application Gateway analytics solution

You can also view the details for the following categories.

  • Application Gateway Access logs:
    • Client and server errors for Application Gateway access logs
    • Requests per hour for each Application Gateway
    • Failed requests per hour for each Application Gateway
    • Errors by user agent for Application Gateways

Figure 8 - Screenshot of the Application Gateway Access logs

  • Application Gateway performance:
    • Host health for Application Gateway
    • Maximum and 95th percentile for Application Gateway failed requests

Figure 9 – Screenshot of the Application Gateway performance

Customized dashboard of Log Analytics for the Application Gateway monitor

In addition to this solution can also be convenient to use a special dashboard of Log Analytics, specifically for the monitoring of the Application Gateway, available at this link. The deployment of the dashboard is via ARM template and requires also in this case the Diagnostics logs of the Application Gateway enabled, as described above. The various queries of Log Analytics, used by the dashboard, are documented in this blog. Thanks to these queries the dashboard shows several additional information exposed by the diagnostic of the Application Gateway.

Figure 10 – Custom dashboard of Log Analytics for Application Gateway monitoring

Query of Log Analytics to monitor the Firewall Log

Using the solution Azure Application Gateway analytics of Log Analytics or the custom dashboard (stated in the previous paragraph) are not contemplated at the time the Firewall log, generated when is active the Web Application Firewall (WAF) on the Application Gateway. The WAF is based on rules of OWASP Core Rule Set 3.0 or 2.2.9 to intercept attacks, for the web applications, that exploit the known vulnerabilities. To name a few, we find for example the SQL injection and attacks cross site scripting.

In this case, if you decide to check the Firewall log, you must directly query the Log Analytics, for example:

Figure 11 – The Query to retrieve blocked requests by the WAF module, over the past 7 days, for a specific URI, divided by RuleID

To see the list of rules of the WAF, by associating the RuleId to its description, you can consult this document.

The descriptive message of the rule is also listed within the results returned by the query:

Figure 12 – The Query to retrieve blocked requests by the WAF module, over the past 7 days, for a specific URI and for a specific RuleId

Conclusions

In my experience, in Azure architectures that require secure publishing of web services to Internet, is often used Azure Application Gateway service with the WAF module active. With the ability to send diagnostic logs of this component to Log Analytics you have the option of having a qualified monitor, that is fundamental to analyse any error conditions and to assess the state of the component in all its facets.

OMS and System Center: What's New in June 2018

In June have been announced, by Microsoft, a considerable number of news about Operations Management Suite (OMS) and System Center. Our community, through these articles released monthly, aims to provide a general overview of the main new features of the month, in order to stay up to date on these arguments and have the necessary references for further information.

Operations Management Suite (OMS)

Log Analytics

Recently it was officially announced that the OMS portal will be deprecated, in favour of the Azure Portal. In this article are examined the aspects related to this change and what you should know to avoid being caught unprepared.

Figure 1 - Notifications in the OMS portal

Azure Backup

Azure Backup is enriched with an important new feature that allows you to natively protect SQL workload, running in IaaS virtual machines that reside in Azure. In this article are showed the benefits and the characteristics of this new feature.

Figure 2 – Protection of SQL Server on Azure VMs with Azure Backup

Released an updated version of the’Azure Backup agent (MARS), which can be obtained by accessing this link.

Using Azure Backup there is the possibility of generating the reports needed to be able to easily check the status of resource protection, details on the different backup jobs configured, the actual storage utilization and status of its alert. All this is made possible by using Power BI, allowing you to have a high degree of flexibility in the generation and customization of reports. In this video, recently published, there is show how to configure a Power BI workspace for sharing reports of Azure Backup within your organization. To analyze the steps required to configure the reporting of Azure Backup you can refer this article.

Figure 3 – Sharing PowerBI reports of Azure Backup

Azure Backup introduces the ability to protect workloads running on Azure Stack environment. The tenant who use the Azure Stack solution can then have a short term protection directly on the Azure Stack environment and can make use of Azure Recovery Service vault for long term retention and to perform offsite. For more details on this you can consult therelease announcement.

Figure 4 – Azure Stack Tenant backup with Microsoft Azure Backup Server

Azure Site Recovery

In Azure Site Recovery (ASR) was announced in "general availability (GA)" the ability to configure the Disaster Recovery (DR) of Azure Virtual Machines. Configuring the replication of virtual machines in different regions of Azure, you have the ability to make applications resilient to a fault affecting a specific Azure region. This feature is available in all the Azure regions where you can use ASR. Azure is the first public cloud to offer a native solution for Disaster Recovery for applications that run in IaaS.

During the preview, Microsoft has taken into account the different feedback from the customers and added to the solution, the following import capabilities:

We highlight these useful references regarding this solution:

Security and Audit

The solution Azure Network Security Group Analytics will be replaced by Traffic Analytics that was released in General availability (GA). This solution, fully cloud-based, allows you to have an overall visibility on network activities that are undertaken in the cloud environment. For more details about you can see "How to monitor network activities in Azure with Traffic Analytics"

System Center

System Center Data Protectrion Manager

In environments where System Center Data Protection Manager (SCDPM) is connected to Azure Backup service was introduced the ability to view all the items protected, details on the use of storage and information about the recovery points, direct from the Azure Portal, within the Recovery Service vault. This feature is supported for SCDPM 2012 R2, 2016 and for Azure Backup Server v1 and v2, as long as you have the latest version of Azure Backup Agent (MARS).

Figure 5 – Information from DPM outlined in Recovery Service vault

System Center Configuration Manager

It is usually released a technical preview per month in Configuration Manager, but this month, due to the considerable number of new features, they were released two.

The first is the version 1806 for the Technical Preview branch of System Center Configuration Manager. The main innovation introduced by this update is the addition of support for third-party software update catalogs. From the Configuration Manager console, you can easily subscribe to third-party software update catalogs, then publish updates via Software Update Point. These updates will be issued to the client by using the classic method of Configuration Manager to deploy software update.

Figure 6 – Access to third-party software update catalogs from the SCCM console

In addition to this new feature were released updates on:

  • Sync MDM policy from Microsoft Intune for a co-managed device
  • Office 365 workload transition in co-management
  • Configure Windows Defender SmartScreen settings for Microsoft Edge
  • Improvements to the Surface dashboard
  • Office Customization Tool integration with the Office 365 Installer
  • Content from cloud management gateway
  • Simplified client bootstrap command line
  • Software Center infrastructure improvements
  • Removed Network Access Account (NAA) requirement for OSD Boot Media
  • Removed Network Access Account (NAA) requirement for Task Sequences
  • Package Conversion Manager
  • Deploy updates without content
  • Currently logged on user information is shown in the console
  • Provision Windows app packages for all users on a device

The second is the version 1806.2 for the Technical Preview branch of System Center Configuration Manager, that mainly includes the following news related to the Phased deployment:

  • Ability to monitor the status natively, from the Deployments node.
  • Ability to create Phased deployment of applications and not just for task sequences.
  • Ability to carry out a gradual rollout during the deployment phase.

Also this preview contains updates regarding:

  • Management Insights for proactive maintenance
  • Mobile apps for co-managed devices
  • Support for new Windows app package formats
  • New boundary group options for optimized P2P behaviors
  • Third-party software updates support for custom catalogs
  • Compliance 9 – Overall health and compliance (Report)

Please note that the releases in the Technical Preview Branch help you evaluate the new features of SCCM and it is recommended to apply these updates only in test environments.

System Center Operations Manager

Released an updated version of the Management Pack for OS Windows Server 2016 and 1709 Plus which includes several updates and issues resolutions. For further information you can consult this article.

Released the version 8.2 of the MP Author that includes several improvements. For a list of what's new in this version you can see theofficial announcement of the release.

Evaluation of OMS and System Center

Please remember that in order to test and evaluate for free Operations Management Suite (OMS) you can access this page and select the mode that is most appropriate for your needs.

To test the various components of System Center 2016 you can access theEvaluation Center and after the registration you can start the trial period.

The management of Log Analytics from the Azure portal

For some time, Microsoft has started a process that led to bundle several features and settings of OMS Log Analytics in the Azure portal. Recently it was officially announced that the OMS portal will be deprecated, in favour of the Azure Portal. This article will examine aspects related to this change and what you should know to avoid being caught unprepared.

The choice to leave the OMS portal, in favour of the Azure Portal, was made in order to provide a unique user experience to monitor and manage the systems, regardless of their location (on-premises or on Azure). Thanks to the Azure portal you can browse and manage all Azure services and soon you will also have complete control over OMS Log Analytics. The expectation is that the gap currently present between the two portals is finally filled by the end of summer and short Microsoft will announce the date for the final disposal of the OMS portal.

Figure 1 - Notifications in the OMS portal

Figure 2 – Overview of Log Analytics in the Azure Portal

What does this change?

The disposal of the OMS portal, in addition to a noticeable change in user experience, also entails a change in the use of Log Analytics to aspects reported below.

Management of alerts

Instead of using the Alert management solution of Log Analytics you must use Azure Monitor, in addition to allowing you to monitor all Azure borne resources, also holds the "alerting" engine for the entire cloud platform. The article "The extension of Log Analytics Alerts in Azure Monitor"introduces the new management of the Alerts in Log Analytics and the benefits introduced by this evolution.

Access Permissions for the portal

Access management in the Azure Portal, based on role-based access control (RBAC), is definitely more flexible and powerful than the one in the OMS portal. Azure provides these two default built-in user roles for Log Analytics:

  • Log Analytics Reader
  • Log Analytics Contributor

For details regarding access management of Log Analytics from the Azure portal you can consult this documentation. Starting from 25 June will start the automatic conversion process, during which each user or security group present in the OMS portal will be reported with the appropriate role in the Azure Portal, according to the following association:

Figure 3 - Association between OMS portal permissions and Azure roles

Mobile App

As for the portal OMS, even the OMS mobile app will be deprecated. In its place you can access to the Azure portal directly from the mobile browser, waiting for future extensions of the Azure Mobile App. To receive notifications on mobile devices, when alerts are generated, you can use Azure Action Groups.

Application Insights Connector

TheApplication Insights Connector is used to return the data of Application Insights inside the workspace of Log Analytics. This connector is no longer needed and will be deprecated, from November of this year, given that the same functionality can be achieved using cross-resource queries.

Azure Network Security Group Analytics

The solution Azure Network Security Group Analytics will be replaced by Traffic Analytics, accessible only from the Azure Portal. For more details on this new tool you can refer to the article "How to monitor network activities in Azure with Traffic Analytics"

 

Current gap in the Azure portal

To date it is imposed the use the OMS portal, for who uses the following solutions, as they are not totally usable in the Azure Portal:

Microsoft is working to update this solutions and make them available using the Azure Portal. To stay up to date on changes about this you can refer to the page Azure Updates.

 

Considerations

To manage Log Analytics should be used the Azure portal since today, which enables new tools, to benefit from the better experience offered, and to take advantage of the portal's features, as the dashboards, searches, and tagging for resource management. The OMS portal will be disposed soon, but it can still be required if you need to use the solutions not yet compatible (above reported), waiting for their upcoming update that will make them fully functioning with the Azure Portal.

Azure Backup: the protection of SQL Server in Azure Virtual Machines

Azure Backup is enriched with an important new feature that allows you to natively protect SQL workload, running in IaaS virtual machines that reside in Azure. In this article we will explore the benefits and the characteristics of this new feature.

Figure 1 - Protection with Azure backups of SQL Server in Azure VMs

Azure Backup has always been with an approach cloud-first allowing you to protect your systems quickly, safe and effective. The SQL Server protection in Azure IaaS virtual machines provides the only solution of its kind, characterised by the following elements:

  • Zero-backup infrastructure: you do not need to maintain a classic backup infrastructure, composed from the backup server, by various agents installed on systems and storage that host backups. In addition, nor is it required to use backup scripts, often needed in other backup solutions, to protect SQL Server.
  • Monitor backups by Recovery Services Vault: Using the dashboard, you can easily and intuitively monitor various backup jobs for all types of workloads protected: Azure IaaS VMs, Azure Files and SQL server databases. You can also set up email notifications against unsuccessful backup or restore.
  • Centralized management: you have the option to configure common protection policy, usable for databases residing on separate servers, where is defined the scheduling and the retention for short-term and long-term backup.
  • Restore DB to a precise date and time: an intuitive graphical interface allows the operator to restore the most appropriate recovery point for the selected date. Azure Backup will take care of managing the restoration of full backups, differential and log backup chain in order to get the database at the selected time.
  • Recovery Point Objective (RPO) of 15 minutes: You can back up the transaction log every 15 minutes.
  • Pay as you go service (PAYG): billing takes place monthly on the basis of consumption and there are no upfront costs for the service.
  • Native integration with SQL Server APIs: Azure Backup invokes the native APIs of the solution to ensure a high efficiency and reliability of the operations performed. Backup jobs can be viewed using SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS).
  • Support for Always On Availability Group: the solution is able to back up databases that reside within an Availability Group (AG), ensuring the protection in case of failover events, honoring the preference backup set at the AG level.

This new feature supports the following versions of the operating system and SQL Server, independently that are VMs are generated by a marketplace image or less (SQL Server installation done manually).

Supported operating systems

  • Windows Server 2012
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Windows Server 2016

Linux, at the moment, is not supported.

Supported SQL Server VersionsEditions

  • SQL 2012 Enterprise, Standard, Web, Developer, Express
  • SQL 2014 Enterprise, Standard, Web, Developer, Express
  • SQL 2016 Enterprise, Standard, Web, Developer, Express
  • SQL 2017 Enterprise, Standard, Web, Developer, Express

To take advantage of this feature, the following requirements must be met:

  • Have a Recovery Services vault in the same region where resides the Azure virtual machine hosting SQL databases to be protected.
  • The virtual machine with SQL Server need connectivity to Azure public IPs.
  • On the virtual machine that holds the databases to be protected must be present specific settings. Azure Backup requires the presence of the VM extension AzureBackupWindowsWorkload. This extension is installed in the virtual machine during the process of discovery and enables communication with Azure Backup. The extension installation involves the creation in the VM, by Azure Backup, of the Windows virtual service account named NT Service AzureWLBackupPluginSvc. This virtual service account needs permissions of log in and sysadmin on SQL side, to protect your databases.

To enable the backup of SQL workloads in virtual machine in Azure it is necessary to carry out a process of discovery and later you can configure the protection.

Discovery process

This paragraph shows the procedure to be followed, by accessing the Azure Portal, to enable discovery of databases:

Figure 2 – Initiation of the discovery process

Figure 3 – Discovery in progress

Figure 4 – Discovery of DBs on selected systems

 

Configuring SQL backup

After the discovery phase of the the databases you can proceed with the configuration of SQL Server backup.

Figure 5 - Start the backup configuration, post DBs discovery inside the VMs

Figure 6 – Selection of DBs to be protected

Figure 7 – Creation of the policy that defines the type of SQL backup and data retention

Figure 8 – Enabling backup

 

Backup monitor and restore process

Figure 9 – Dashboard of the Recovery Service vault

Figure 10 - Number of backup items of SQL in Azure VMs

Figure 11 – SQL backup status

By selecting the single DB you can start the restore process.

Figure 12 - Starting the restore process of the DB

Figure 13 – Selecting the destination where to restore the DB

Figure 14 – Selecting the restore point to use

Figure 15 – Restore settings and directories where to place the files

Figure 16 – Starting the restore job

 

The Cost of the Solution

The cost for the protection of SQL Server in Azure Backup is calculated on the number of instances protected (individual Azure VMs or Availability Groups). The cost of a single protected instance depends on the size, which is determined by the overall size of the various protected DBs (without considering the amount of compression and encryption). At this cost it has to be added the cost of Azure storage actually consumed. This is Block Blob Storage including locally redundant storage (LRS) or geo-redundant storage (GRS). For more details on costs please visit the Microsoft's official page.

 

Conclusions

Azure Backup is enhanced with an important feature and confirms to be a great enterprise solution for systems protection, wherever they are. With this feature, Azure differs from any other public cloud, providing a solution for the protection of SQL Server in IaaS virtual machines, totally integrated into the platform. For more information on Azure Backup solution you can consult the official documentation.

Everything you need to know about new Azure Load Balancer

Microsoft recently announced the availability in Azure of Standard Load Balancer. They are load balancers Layer-4, for TCP and UDP protocols that, compared to Basic Load Balancer, introduce improvements and give you more granular control of certain features. This article describes the main features of the Standard Azure Load balancers, in order to have the necessary elements to choose the most suitable type of balancer for your needs.

Any scenario where you can use the SKU Basic of Azure Load balancers, can be satisfied using the Standard SKU, but the two types of load balancers have important differences in terms of scalability, functionality, guaranteed service levels and cost.

Scalability

The Standard Load balancers have higher scalability, compared to Basic Load Balancer, as regards the maximum number of instances (IP Configuration) that can be configured in the backend pool. The SKU Basic allows you to have up to 100 instances, while using the Standard SKU the maximum number of instances is equal to 1000.

Functionality

Backend pool

With regard to the Basic Load Balancer, in the backend pool, can reside exclusively:

  • Virtual machines that are located within an availability set.
  • A single standalone VM.
  • Virtual Machine Scale Set.

Figure 1 – Possible associations in the Basic Load Balancer backend pool

In Standard Load Balancer instead, it is allowed to enter into backend pool any virtual machine attested on a particular virtual network. The integration scope, in this case, is not in fact the availability set, as for the Basic load balancer , but it is the virtual network and all its associated concepts. A requirement to consider, in order to insert into the backend pool of Standard Load Balancer the virtual machines, is that these should not have associated public IP or must have Public IP with Standard SKU.

Figure 2 Standard Load Balancer backend pool association

Availability Zones

Standard Load Balancers provide integration scenarios with Availability Zones, in the regions that include this feature. For more details you can refer this specific Microsoft document, that shows the main concepts and implementation guide lines.

Ports High Availability

The load balancers with Standard SKU, of type "Internal", allow you to balance the TCP and UDP flows on all ports simultaneously. To do that, in the rule of load-balancing, there is the possibility to enable the "HA Ports" option:

Figure 3 - Configuring the load balancing rule with "HA Ports" option enabled

The balancing is done for flow, which is determined by the following elements: source IP address, source port, destination IP address, destination port, and protocol. This is particularly useful in scenarios where are used Network Virtual Appliances (NVAs) requiring scalability. This new feature improves the tasks that are required for NVAs implementations.

Figure 4 - Network architecture which provides the use of LB with "HA Ports" option enabled

Another possible use for this feature is when you need to balance a large number of ports.

For more details on the option "HA Ports" you can see the official documentation.

Diagnostics

Standard Load Balancer introduce the following features in terms of diagnostic capability:

  • Multi-dimensional metrics: You can retrieve various metrics that allow you to see, in real time, usage status of load balancer, internal and public. This information is particularly useful for troubleshooting.

Figure 5 – Load Balancer metrics from the Azure Portal

  • Resource Health: in Azure Monitor you have the opportunity to consult the health status of Standard Load Balancer (currently only available for Standard Load Balancer, type Public).

Figure 6 – Resource health of Load Balancer in Azure Monitor

You can also consult the history of the health state :

Figure 7 – Health history of Load Balancer

All details related to diagnostics, of the Standard Load Balancer, can be found in the official documentation.

Security

The Load Balancer with standard SKU are configured to be secure by default in fact, in order to operate, you must have a Network Security Group (NSG) where the traffic flow is explicitly allowed. As previously reported, the Load Balancer standards are fully integrated into the virtual network, which is characterized by the fact that it is private and therefore closed. The Standard Load Balancer and the public Standard IP are used to allow the access to the virtual network from outside and now by default you must configure a Network Security Group (closed by default) to allow the desired traffic. If there is no a NSG, on the subnet or on the NIC of the virtual machine, you will not be allowed the access by the network stream from the Standard Load Balancer.

The Basic Load Balancers by default are opened and the configuration of a Network Security Group is optional.

Outbound connections

The Load Balancer on Azure support both inbound and outbound connectivity scenarios. The Standard Load Balancer, compared to the Load Balancer Basic, behave differently with regard to outbound connections.

To map the internal and private IP address of the virtual network to the public IP address of the Load Balancer it uses the Source Network Address Translation technique (SNAT). The Load Balancer Standard introduce a new algorithm to have stronger SNAT policies, scalable and accurate, that allow you to have more flexibility and have new features.

Using the Standard Load Balancer you should consider the following aspects with regard to outbound scenarios:

  • Must be explicitly created to allow outgoing connectivity to virtual machines and are defined on the basis of incoming balancing rules.
  • Balancing rules define how occur the SNAT policies.
  • If there are multiple frontend, It uses all the frontend and for each of these multiply the preallocated SNAT ports available.
  • You have the option to choose and control whether a specific frontend you don't want to use for outbound connections.

Basic Load Balancers, in the presence of more public frontend IP, it is selected a single frontend to be used in outgoing flows. This selection can not be configured and occurs randomly.

To designate a specific IP address, you can follow the steps in this section of the Microsoft documentation.

Management operations

Standard Load balancers allow enabling management operations more quickly, much to bring the execution times of these operations under 30 seconds (against the 60-90 seconds to the Load Balancer with Basic SKU). Editing time for the backend pools are also dependent on the size of the same.

Other differences

At the moment, Public Standard Load Balancer cannot be configured with a public IPv6 address:

Figure 8 – Public IPv6 for Public Load Balancer

Service-Level Agreements (SLA)

An important aspect to consider, in choosing the most appropriate SKU for different architectures, is the level of service that you have to ensure (SLA). Using the Standard Load Balancer ensures that a Load Balancer Endpoint, that serve two or more instances of health virtual machines, will be available in time with an SLA of 99.99%.

The Load Balancer Basic does not guarantee this SLA.

For more details you can refer to the specific article SLA for Load Balancer.

 

Cost

As for Basic Load Balancer are not expected cost, for Standard Load Balancer there are usage charge provided on the basis of the following elements:

  • Number of load balancing rules configured.
  • Number of inbound and outbound data processed.

There are no specific costs for NAT rules.

In the Load Balancer cost page can be found the details.

 

Migration between SKUs

For Load Balancer is not expected to move from the Basic SKU to the Standard SKU and vice versa. But it is necessary to provide a side-by-side migration, taking into consideration the previously described functional differences.

Conclusions

The introduction of the Azure Standard Load Balancer allows you to have new features and provide greater scalability. These characteristics may help you avoid having to use, in specific scenarios, balancing solutions offered by third party vendors. Compared to traditional Load balancers (Basic SKU) change operating principles and have distinct characteristics in terms of costs and SLAS, this is good to consider in order to choose the most suitable type of Load Balancer, on the basis of the architecture that you must accomplish.